Cast of La Bayadere, a ballet presented by KL Dance Works and The Dance Society of Malaysia, at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur on July 25-26. Photo: Weeling Chen.
The epic La Bayadere (temple dancer) is one of the great stories of the romantic ballet form. It will light up the stage at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur on July 25-26. The show is an ambitious undertaking, something that KL Dance Works co-founder and artistic director Choong Wan Chin never expected she would do.
The beloved work La Bayadere was first staged in St Petersburg in Russia in 1877. The storyline was by Frenchman Marius Petipa, who also devised the choreography. The music was by the Austrian composer Ludwig Minkus (1827-1917), who spent most of his life working for the Imperial Ballet in St Petersburg. Since then, it has been revived and staged by many world-renowned companies such as the Paris Opera Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre.
“La Bayadere is grand show, with spectacular costumes, great dramatic effects, beautiful choreography and music,” says Choong during a chat at her dance studio in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
“I never imagined that I would be doing this show. It is also the most technical and artistic piece ever attempted by Dance Works, so it is a lot of hard work for us.”
In La Bayadere, a temple maiden and a brave warrior have sworn eternal fidelity to one another, but other people – and rather unfortunate circumstances – come between their love for each other. The High Brahmin is in love with the temple girl and wants her for himself. And what he wants, he makes sure he gets.
Fuelled by suspicion, betrayal and jealousy, murder plots unfold in this ballet like mushrooms sprouting after rain. Throw in a dagger to finish the deed, deadly poison to stop one’s heart, a sly serpent to snuff out a life, and it sounds like a tragic love story doomed from the very start … or is it?
Presented by KL Dance Works and The Dance Society of Malaysia (TDS), the local staging of this ballet features a multi-national cast.
Out of the 65 dancers, 11 are from abroad, coming to Kuala Lumpur from as far as the United States, Japan and Australia, for the show. Adiarys Almeida will be Nikiya, the temple dancer; Joseph Gatti as Solor the warrior; Ashley Ellis as Gamzatti, the Rajah’s daughter; and Aleix Martinez as the Bronze Idol.
Joseph Gonzales, Aswara dance faculty dean, will slip into the character role of the High Brahmin, with 80-year-old Colin Peasley from the Australian Ballet as Rajah.
There will also be children from age eight upwards included in the show, as temple girls and bronze statues.
Choong has a soft spot for this ballet piece, ever since she saw The Royal Ballet’s take on it in the United States more than 15 years ago. Coincidentally, it is also Dance Society of Malaysia president Sunny Chan’s favourite ballet, according to Choong.
“There is just a kind of magic with this ballet piece and the whole set up, which I find really hard to put into words. I could watch it many times over and still want to watch it again,” she adds.
Set in ancient India, the costume styles are as varied as they come, ranging from studded skirts to delicate tutus, pants with elaborate belts, and bronze paint.
Choong describes the story of La Bayadere as one that is “rooted in reality”, although it skilfully weaves elements of fantasy and imagination into the piece as well.
La Bayadere is on at Istana Budaya (Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur) at 8.30pm on July 25 and 3pm on July 26. It runs for approximately two hours and 15 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission. Tickets range from RM88 to RM288, excluding a RM3 surcharge. For ticket purchase, call 03-4257 7642 (Helen), 012-292 6900 (Chen Wei), 019-211 1600 (Zulkhairi), 03-4147 8600 (Ticket2u hotline), or visit www.ticket2u.biz
Part of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to Society of Welfare & Human Capital Development Selangor for Myanmar refugee children education, Breast Cancer Woman Association of Malaysia, and Living Hope Malaysia.